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Politics, Culture and American Life

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A Nightmare in November

December 31st, 2015 · ALEC, Budgets, Corporations and Industry, Courts and the Law, Democracy, Fascism, Health Care, Human Rights, International affairs, Jobs, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes, Wall Street, Wars and Militarism

Here is the real danger for 2016. We are at a tipping point. It is very likely that few Americans understand the calamitous potential of that single day in our history. Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  There is a very realistic scenario that describes what could happen. It will happen only if we fail as citizens.

Imagine, if you will, that a “Republican” candidate is elected President. Assume that the Senate is not restored to Democrats. Election issues, wholesale voter restrictions and fraud abound in all the states where Senatorial elections were crucial. Now the Republicans control the House and Senate, and…let’s say that the outcome is a kind of  Stephen King horror story—a Fascist-Republican is elected President. What can we know for sure will happen then?

Based on current and prior experience with the Fascist-Republican agenda, based on laws already on the books where they have had the power to enact them, we know that fifteen million more Americans will immediately lose their health care and rates on others will skyrocket. Forty of the fifty states will become back-alley abortion states. Taxes will be reduced on the top 5% of Americans with the top .1% receiving the greatest reductions. A strong warning will be sent to Iran, Syria, and Hamas,  that the Americans are coming, that American (poor and uneducated) boys are on the way. If they don’t volunteer, we’ll conscript them. The country will hurtle towards bankruptcy, as Bush-era deficits will return. Local police will become more militarized and belligerent. (Or they’ll be asked to leave.)  [Read more →]

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Social Security Revisited.

November 7th, 2015 · Fascism, Politics, Populism, Social Security, The Budget

On May 28, 2009, in this space, we published a well-researched article entitled, “Who Stole Your Social Security and Why?” The idea was to clarify the concept and the true status of Social Security. Because of the huge Republican propaganda campaign against Social Security, it is time to review the facts.

In recent years, citizens have contributed about a trillion dollars a year to Social Security. From its inception in 1935 until 2010, Social Security had always taken in more than it paid out. As a result, Social Security has a surplus in the trillions. The recent baby-boomer-caused deficits in annual Social Security budgets are relatively minor, an annual shortfall of about 4% or about four dollars of every thousand. Republicans have tried to create the image that the Social Security fund will soon go “bankrupt.” That’s a lie.

Reactionaries, now Conservative Republicans, (or more frequently identified as Fascist/Republicans) have tried to hi-jack Social Security from the very beginning. But it is not sustained by general tax revenue funds. It is supported with a separate, dedicated, payroll allocation. Since the Bush Administration, however, Fascist Republicans have come up with a more comprehensive way to end Social Security. They have created huge debt with which to bankrupt the entire government. And they are coming closer.   [Read more →]

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Putin

October 12th, 2015 · International affairs, Wars and Militarism

What is Vladimir Putin doing and why is he doing it? Putin has made his move into the Middle East. One of the most powerful, most calculating and richest men in the world, he has suddenly (it would seem) taken interest in the Middle East crisis. Russian air forces are attacking ISIL encampments in Syria, fighting against the enemies of Prime Minister Assad, of Syria. Coincidentally, he attacks the enemies of the U.S., which is also conducting air strikes against ISIL. So it would seem that for the moment we are on the same side. But that is certainly deceptive.

Remember that Putin has had his own Islamic problems. Some of his popularity and power comes from having defeated terrorists and separatists in the Russian Muslim state of Chechnya. The loosely affiliated but Russian-controlled state was effectively defeated by Putin-sponsored forces there by 2009. That hard-won victory helped to bolster his political image. The murder and mayhem in the long history of bad Russian-Chechnyan relations has given Putin a background that makes him quite capable of managing attacks in Syria. His main reasons, however, seem to have more to do with Europe than with the Middle East.

Let’s recall how Putin became the Prime Minister. He had been a middle-level KGB officer in St. Petersburg, (formerly Leningrad) where he was raised after the war. A bright student, he earned a degree from the law department of Leningrad University, in the mid-1970s and entered the KGB immediately. He became affiliated with the political organization of Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St. Petersburg, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, joined Sobchak in Moscow, “resigning” his position in the KGB. [Read more →]

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The foundations of American Neo-Fascism

September 21st, 2015 · ALEC, Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Economics, Education, Fascism, Human Rights, Jobs, Lobbying, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Wars and Militarism

Hitler, above all, was a racist. He thought that interbreeding between different races was wrong, but not merely wrong—disastrously wrong. He thought that Darwin’s discovery of the laws of evolution extended to humans and races. He was an intelligent, fanatical  and evil man and his dedication to a Fascist world caused the deaths of 50 million people in slightly less than a decade.

In order to do that, he organized a country to build a strong military to expand the space of the Aryan race through military might. He was quite specific. His armies were to conquer territories and his other military forces were to murder the leaders and other individuals of the lesser races in those areas. It became more than theoretical. It became routine.

It was a simple plan if you were one of the favored race but pretty scary if you were not.

Today, Fascism or Neo-Fascism is not so scary. At least not yet. We have a Republican Party that believes–evident from their actions and their votes–that Blacks are inferior, lazy and cannot or will not learn. Creating the inferior minority and dividing the population is a hallmark of Fascism. The inferior group has inadequate social skills. They expect government to take care of them because they are the descendants of slaves. Remembering that a majority is 51% and that there are still 49% who do not accept what the majority thinks of something, this belief in inferiority, is the opinion of the majority in the South and a minority in the North. The Republicans call them “the poor” but we know what they mean. Blacks have been kept poor for a hundred years. In the United States, African-Americans have a median net worth that is ten times lower than Caucasians. [Read more →]

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Scott Walker, Enemy of the People; Dr. Ben Carson, Separator of Siamese Twins

September 5th, 2015 · Budgets, Corporations and Industry, Economics, Education, Fascism, Health Care, Labor, Politics, Populism, Taxes

Scott Walker is riding the Clown Car Express. He’s the evil clown, the one you always hear about who scares children. He is scary. He didn’t scare Wisconsin voters enough. They failed to recall him, although they should get credit for trying. When Walker took office, with all his talk about economic growth and job creation, Wisconsin was already doing well, with its publicly traded companies up 40% in value, bringing an increase of more than 50% in tax revenues.

Then Walker became governor. Over the next four years, Wisconsin’s economic performance dropped to 35th in the country, according to Bloomberg. The state has consistently fallen below Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa is a farm state but Michigan isn’t nor is Illinois or Minnesota. [Read more →]

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Trump, Bush and Rubio — The Three Blind Mice of 2016

August 25th, 2015 · Corporations and Industry, Education, Politics, Populism, Wall Street

There is so much hype about so little talent in the GOP’s “Race to Once More Losing the Presidency” that we thought it might be a good idea to take a look inside the Clown Car and provide a little truth to spread around on the floor to make it easier to clean up after them. So, here goes.

Donald Trump
Who is Donald Trump, other than the rarest of individuals who can go bankrupt in a casino where the slot machines are set at 96% for the House and 4% for the gambler? I don’t think this bodes well for a country that has experienced previous, and supposedly more conservative Republican Presidents, who have created $15 trillion of the $18 trillion in debt we currently have.

Who is he other than a four-time married mogul (or does that make him a womanizer, a woman lover or a trophy hunter or simply a guy with a slippery zipper?) Who is Donald Trump if not a nightmare to his barber or his hair stylist….and to how many has he said his favorite words: “You’re fired!” Donald Trump is a man about it is known that he was born in this country, in New York, perhaps in a run-down tenement slum. After all, wasn’t his father a slum lord who died and left his tenements to Donald, which would have made him a Slum Lord? From such lowly beginnings and attitudes on life did little Donald grow into a conniving, arrogant beneficiary of rising New York City real estate values.

Finally, is “the Donald,” a somewhat likable buffoon or a real dynamic businessman. Well, remember those casinos that he bankrupted? That’s not a problem for Donald. You see, the little known fact, and one that our mogul, our business leader, our presidential candidate does not want you to know is that for every million dollars worth of inherited or non-inherited real estate the estimable egotist owned in 1993, by 2007—just sitting there, no improvements—it was worth $7.7 million. Even the Great Real Estate Mouth could not lose enough to overcome that much profit. That’s right. Studies of real estate in New York City have shown an annual rate of growth of 15.8%. [Read more →]

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Hedge Fund Managers Are Coming for Your State Pension Funds.

July 16th, 2015 · Corporations and Industry, Economics, Fascism, Health Care, Human Rights, Labor, Lobbying, Media, Politics, Populism, Social Security, The Budget, Wall Street

One of the most serious and largest scams now being perpetrated by the Republican Party on the American public is the “unfunded liability” state employee pension debate. The true story is essentially quite different from what they would have you believe.  The Republican governors have figured out that the best way to steal from the states is to go where the money is—to the state pension funds. There is substantial evidence for this. The public understands very little about managing pension funds. The corporate-owned media has kept the public in the dark about exactly what the pension “crisis” involves in each state. The same Wall Street swindlers who bankrupted many a pension fund in the private sector are now ready to loot public pensions.

The failure to fund pensions in the private sector became so common that the government set up a new agency in the 1970s to deal with it, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, whose function was simply to pay benefits to individuals whose pensions fail for lack of corporate funding. Is this a problem? In 2010 alone, the PBGC paid out $5.6 billion to the retirees of 147 corporations who failed to fund their pension programs. But that may not go on forever. The PBGC has a huge deficit of somewhere between $25 and $50 billion. What will happen long term seems to be anybody’s guess. In the meantime, many of these corporate raiders, men who borrowed against corporate assets and pocketed the money became rich. The funds that should have gone to retirees of private firms went to the investment brokers and so-called “turnaround” specialists. Companies like Romney’s Bain Capital simply borrowed money, bought failing companies, sold off assets, dumped the pensions on the PBGC and pocketed tens of millions in fees. Many of the new Republican governors people, like Romney and Rauner and Snyder of Michigan and Kasich of Ohio all came from Wall Street. They are in office for only two reasons—to break public unions and loot public pension funds. [Read more →]

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Rush Limbaugh and the Decline of Hate Radio

June 21st, 2015 · Corporations and Industry, Fascism, Lobbying, Media, Politics, Populism

How is Rush Limbaugh, the obscenely obscene radio personality, the voice of hatred and racism, doing these days? Is he still earning his $40 million a year for the billionaires and giant corporations? Is the Hillary hater…why does he hate her so much….still grinding out his insults? Does he still thing that bright young law students (as opposed to what seem to be his favorites—Caribbean teen prostitutes) should be called whores because they would like to have contraception?

Apparently not, according to someone who should know—the head of Limbaugh’s largest network, Cumulus Radio. According to Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus radio, 48 of the top 50 national radio advertisers have a “no-Limbaugh” order in their files, as do all the top national advertising agencies.

Limbaugh is toxic to advertisers. So good riddance, and—what took them so long? This vile cretin has been on the air since 1988. He hasn’t changed. He fawned over Reagan and Bush the Braver, who had two major recessions and accumulated $4 trillion in debt but attacked the Clinton Administration, including First Lady Hillary Clinton every single day, while the Clinton era became the largest sustained period of growth in the nation’s history and unemployment dropped below 4%. Limbaugh is a lying, thieving, irresponsible hate-filled  propagandist for the rich. He has made nearly a billion dollars working for oil men, global corporations, and purely Fascist billionaires.  [Read more →]

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Bruce Rauner: Money and Neo-Fascism

June 12th, 2015 · ALEC, Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Education, Health Care, Lobbying, Media, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Wall Street

For those who don’t know, Bruce Rauner is the new Republican governor of Illinois. And money? We all know what money is. Rauner is all about money. Over a long career in finance, he has amassed a fortune, basically from scratch, of  somewhere between $300 million and a billion dollars.

You don’t make that kind of money without really focusing your attention on making that kind of money unless you are someone really talented, like JK Rowling, Michael Jordan or Bill Gates. So, in finance, without your own money, you use other people’s money to make money, sometimes losing it in the process. But the new Wall Street, men like Rauner always make sure that they, focused on money, always get paid, regardless of who wins or who loses. That’s Bruce Rauner.  Rauner can be accurately described as someone who made his money in typical Wall Street investment schemes.

Of course, Rauner now has more money than he can spend in several lifetimes and so he has decided to run something more important than pension funds. He has decided to run an entire state, all the people in it—his way. The people he wants to impress are not the citizens of Illinois, although he spent about $40 million more than his opponent, Dan Quinn spent to win them over. The people whom Rauner considers his peers are his fellow citizens but his fellow rich Republicans, like the Koch Brothers, the Sheldon Adelsons and the Donald Trumps of the world. His ticket to ride on that gilded train was punched when he won the governorship.

[Read more →]

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Governor Brownback, the Wizard of Oz

June 4th, 2015 · Abortion rights, ALEC, Budgets, Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Economics, Fascism, Health Care, Human Rights, Jobs, Lobbying, Media, Politics, Populism, Taxes

Has Kansas, under Governor Sam Brownback, become  second-rate, with a semi-Fascist government? The answer is in the history of the state since Brownback took over.

Remember this about Fascist governments, under which domination Kansas seems to have fallen. They are never unpopular when they are being installed by their masters. Even Hitler was very popular with Germans. The Neo-Fascists of today, like the Kansas legislators, like Karl Rove and like Governor Brownback understand how to grasp power from the citizens. Dick Cheney would never have been elected President. The Republican Party knows that they need stooges, like George W. Bush. In Kansas, that stooge may be Governor Sam Brownback. Or it may be that his brand of disregard for the middle class, the working class and the truly poor and powerless is the Kansas brand of Neo-Fascism.

Or it may be in Kansas, as it is in some other states, that millions of completely propagandized, brainwashed individuals lack the understanding that their freedom is being taken away. They vote for the Party that says that it wants to return citizens and the country to its prior “freedoms.” And what does that mean? In Kansas, it was pretty simple. It has meant cutting taxes for the rich and corporations, giving them more “freedom” to amass wealth. It means reducing funds for education, closing schools, firing teachers, juggling pension funds.  It means allowing the insertion of irrational religious ideas into secular schools. It means reducing the number of people who have access to health care—think of that—deliberately cutting off poor and in some cases destitute families from health care until they are so sick they come to emergency rooms, often with a death sentence from incurable disease. It means reducing the power of the intellectuals, the universities and the newspapers with mailings and events that pander to the top ten percent of society whose lives now seldom touch those of the lower economic classes. This is the kind of government that Sam Brownback has designed for the average citizen of Kansas.   [Read more →]

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Big Oil

May 26th, 2015 · Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Economics, Labor, Lobbying, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Wall Street

Every time you put gas in your car, you support Big Oil, the major oil companies, some of the largest global corporations in the world. To give an example, the top six oil companies take in about $100 billion a year in profits. Not sales. Not revenues. Profits. Among those, Exxon/Mobil in 2013 ranked 1st in the world in profits, Shell Oil ranked 7th, Chevron ranked 8th, BP ranked 30th and Conoco/Phillips ranked 50th and then only so low because it had previously sold off its refining operations.

 

In all, the value of publicly traded oil companies amounts to roughly $1.95 trillion. One out of every ten dollars of corporate securities held by institutions or private investors is in oil stocks. Oil is a very important component of our national economy. For example, public and private pension plans hold about $561 billion in oil and gas company stocks. IRAs hold another $348 billion. The numbers are not inconsequential. Because you buy oil products every day, you are involved, like it or not.

 

We might argue that the roughly 39% of individual stock ownership in oil companies, as opposed to the roughly 60% owned by institutions, like pension funds, could be more money than those individuals—some very, very wealthy individuals…should be entitled to. But if you want to change that now, even while those individuals are doing their best to impoverish you and turn your country into a Fascist, racist state, you’re on the short end of our political philosophy. Your only hope is to slap a tax on those individuals so high that it will finally be necessary to actually look to see how many billions they still have left.

 

It is not simply the income or wealth of the inheritors of oil company founders that is dubious. And, to be fair, some have given themselves to philanthropy in huge measures. Society does require equity between average income and the unrestricted  disbursement of corporate profits if it is to remain a flourishing democracy. The average oil company CEO makes $20 million a year. It is a highly complicated job. So, some incomes can become quite high. Charf Souki, for example, of Houston-based Cheniere Energy, a natural gas developer and marketer had an income of $171,949,280 last year.  [Read more →]

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American Stagnation

May 10th, 2015 · Budgets, Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Economics, Fascism, Jobs, Labor, Lobbying, Media, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Wall Street

America has never been richer. Private assets amount to over $80 trillion, more than four times the national debt and the GDP. Yet the United States is regressing. That is not the opinion of a populist editor. That is the opinion of some of our best and brightest economists, as relayed to you by a populist editor.

Dr. Larry Summers, Dean Emeritus of Harvard University, former Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, is worried. He is worried that our country is in decline. He doesn’t put it that way. He only mentions politics infrequently and somewhat noncommittally but the comments have clear implications. We are allowing Right Wing political forces to diminish the growth of the United States economy for reasons that can only be seen as personal greed. There are constant reminders of the fact that, underlying all government obstructions of jobs, of infrastructure improvements, of social services, is the reference to “no new taxes.” Since Ronald Reagan took office and reduced government revenues by cutting taxes from 70% to 28%, the United States has grown by about 90 million people, more than a third. But government revenues have gone from 20% of GDP to 18% of GDP. How much is that? The difference is equal to about $340 billion, roughly the same as our annual deficits.

Larry Summers is a man whose life since age 28 has been spent teaching and working in the field of economics. He has held top posts at major institutions of learning and top posts in government involving economic matters. And he thinks we are becoming stagnant. In its simplest interpretation, this means that government is doing nothing to instill a desire or a need for growth among private investors and is, in fact, restraining the natural emphasis on growth by entrepreneurs. And why? Again, it is politics. Billionaires do not need to invest and they do not want to pay more taxes. In its basic form, that is why we are stagnant. [Read more →]

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Jobs in the 21st Century

April 28th, 2015 · Capitalism, Economics, Education, Fascism, Jobs, Labor, Lobbying, Media, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Taxes

American society is crumbling. Our buildings, roads, bridges, dams—all our municipal facilities are breaking down. And there is very little investment being made in correcting that situation. Something more important is breaking down. Our job skills. As a nation, we need the collective experience of skilled workers. Since the Bush Administration took office in 2001 U.S. corporations have sent over 60,000 factories and 5,000,000 manufacturing jobs to Asia.

Republicans in Congress have sold out to major corporations. In 2012, when America desperately needed jobs here in the United States, the Republicans defeated the “Bring Jobs Home Act.” This legislation would have given corporations a 20% tax credit for bring jobs back to the United States. It would also have disallowed the current deductions, established in the Bush Administration, of 25% for the costs of moving jobs and production out of the United States. The Republicans filibustered the same bill again when it was brought up again 2014.

From 1950 to 1970, according to sources like the Hamilton project and the Brookings Institution and others, male wages in the U.S. grew 25% per decade. In the 1970s they slowed, while at the same time more women entered the marketplace. Then they began to fall. Over the last 40 years, wages for men have fallen by 19%, and for men with only a high school education, by 41%. A man with a median income today earns only as much as a man with median income did in 1964. We’ve stagnated.

Women face problems similar to men. The share of women in the workplace advanced from about half in 1970 to over 70% by 2010. But between 2000 and 2010, they also faced wage reductions and by 2010 were making 6% less than they were in 2000. [Read more →]

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The Republicans and Growing Neo-Fascism in America

April 14th, 2015 · Corporations and Industry, Economics, Education, Fascism, Human Rights, International affairs, Labor, Lobbying, Media, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes, Wars and Militarism

Many people think of Fascism and they think of Nazis and the Gestapo and concentration camps. That concept, while accurate as far as it goes, is not the only perspective on Fascism. There are other thoughts that should come into your mind very quickly these days so that you understand our current Neo-Fascism, i.e., the new version of Fascism. Think, for example, of what the German government was before it was Fascist and before the Fascist government became a totalitarian dictatorship. Were there always gangs of thugs running about, beating up Jews? Was there ever an actual majority of Germans who were Nazis, e.g., Fascists?

It may be more dangerous in fact to think of Fascism as the Nazis or even the smaller but totalitarian governments of the Falangists in Spain or Mussolini’s authoritarian governments in Italy. We remember them often at the end, in the war. But, you see, long before that they were Fascists. But they were not always in control. In fact, like many of our current politicians, they were thought to be either stupid or slightly nuts. Almost cartoon characters.

Long before Nazi opponents were beaten in the streets, or imprisoned or harassed, there was a small group of dedicated, anti-Semitic, race-focused people who formed a political party, so dedicated in their hatred of others, so sure that their pure strain of ethnicity was superior that when they took power they caused a calamity that ended the lives of 50 million people, often in the most horrific ways. What some of us see in current politics and against which we urge caution is the resumption of an early-stage of what is a New Fascism, (Neo-Fascism,) far more subtle and with a propaganda arm that moves over our culture like a slow, dark cloud. [Read more →]

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Inequality and Poverty

March 27th, 2015 · ALEC, Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Economics, Fascism, General, Human Rights, Jobs, Labor, Lobbying, Media, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes, Wall Street

Government is failing Americans. A nation accustomed to creating new industries, technologies and good jobs within those industries can no longer expect vision from government. Incomes, fortunes in fact, earned abroad by owners of corporations go directly from the marketplace into the pockets of the already rich. This inequality of outcomes and incomes is causing huge problems for many Americans, and most certainly for Americans who fall below the median income.

The American rich today hoard money, investing it both here and abroad in financial ventures that benefit at most ten percent of the income earners in the country. But hoarding today does not mean lack of reinvestment. It means lack of reinvestment in opportunities for domestic manufacture and industries that would be able to handle the majority of domestic needs.

We make very little of our domestic consumption here any longer. We import it, put it on shelves and hire clerks, at clerks’ pay, to stock it and re-stock it. In the 1950s through the 1970s, we made as much as 88% of our domestic consumption, from automobiles to apparel, right here in the United States. Today, we make less than 20% of American good in the United States. And after the Great Bush Crash and Depression, American jobs have not recovered.

Working in Poverty

According to one study, by the National Employment Law Project, while fewer than 2 million of the absolutely lowest paid jobs, (minimum wage up to $13 an hour) were lost, almost 4 million were added at those wages since the Bush Depression. Over 3 million jobs in the mid-range wage category (up to $20/hour) were lost and only 2 million recovered. The rest dropped into the lowest category. And finally, among the highest paid worker category (up to $32/hour) a net million jobs were lost and returned at lower wage rates. In all, four million workers had their incomes reduced, and many more undoubtedly in exempt (non-hourly) employees who are paid on a weekly or monthly basis. [Read more →]

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